Another prominent boys’ basketball player from the Southern Connecticut Conference has decided to transfer to Hamden Hall.
Jackson Benigni, an explosive shooting guard for Xavier, is officially registered at Hamden Hall. The 6-foot Benigni averaged 25.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season for Xavier.
“It’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. I went back and forth forever,” Benigni said. “I think it’s the right decision, but it’s so hard to leave the team. My heart was there.”
In fact, Benigni told Kohs in person about his decision. Jackson’s dad, Brian, considers Kohs a personal friend.
And in another piece of irony, Jackson’s brother Carson will be a freshman at Xavier. It was Carson who played on the same AAU team as Ethan Doherty, son of Hamden Hall coach Sean Doherty.
“Jackson is an outstanding shooter, a very good ballhandler with a high basketball IQ,” Doherty said. “He is a combo guard who can play either guard position. He’s very competitive. You like to add that to your program.”
Benigni, 17, shot 47 percent from the field last year. He scored 41 points against Hamden, 38 against Notre Dame-West Haven and 31 against Hillhouse and earned a spot on the Register’s All-Area team.
He will reclassify and repeat his junior year for the Hornets.
“It’s certainly tough to lose Jackson. He’s one of the top players in our league,” Kohs said. “I’ve coached him since the sixth grade (the first three years in AAU). He’s like a son to me. Losing him is losing more than a basketball player. His lifelong goal is to be a college scholarship player and I wish him all the best in the pursuit of his dreams.”
Although Benigni, who lives in East Hampton, is the first SCC player this year to transfer to Hamden Hall out of a CIAC school, he becomes the fourth in the last two years. In Doherty’s first year at Hamden Hall, former Hillhouse players Byron Breland III and Christian Adams, along with Tim Dawson from Notre Dame-West Haven, transferred in and helped the Hornets win the Fairchester League tournament title.
“I feel like for me, Coach Doherty’s time coaching in college will help me take my game to the next level,” Benigni said. “I see what he did with Tim, Tre (Breland) and Christian, so I think he can help me get to where they are. I’ve played with Tre and Tim and I know what they said about how Hamden Hall has really helped them. I can’t wait to get into the gym with them and start working.”
Doherty, 49, was an assistant at Quinnipiac University for 10 years, the last of several stops on the collegiate level before being named Hamden Hall’s coach in April of 2017.
“Jackson has a fondness for Coach Doherty. His dream is to play at the highest level possible,” said Brian Benigni, the superintendent of schools in Berlin.
Benigni is a two-time All-SCC selection and surpassed the 1,000-point barrier last season.
Albertus lands Warner, Brewer
Albertus Magnus’ incoming freshmen class includes a former pair of Hillhouse players: guard Davon Warner and forward Rayshawn Brewer, according to a source.
Warner averaged 17 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals for the Academics while the 6-foot-6 Brewer averaged a double-double.
Albertus also added Ed Popolizio from East Haven. Popolizio averaged 22.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and shot 57 percent from the floor for the Yellowjackets last season.
Andrew Rice, a 6-4 guard who graduated from Hamden Hall, will also join the Falcons. He averaged 15 points and eight rebounds last season.
“He’s a great kid and athlete who excels in a high tempo offensive style,” Doherty said about Rice.
Qualon Wilkes, a Register All-State selection at Bassick, this past season, and Jahrell Spence, formerly of Hartford Public who did a post-graduate year at Watkinson, will also join the Falcons. Wilkes, a 5-11 guard, averaged 14.4 points, 5.2 assists and 3.4 steals for the for the CIAC Division I state semifinalists.
Albertus Magnus coach Mitch Oliver is unable to comment on incoming recruits due to NCAA regulations.